Spit it Out
Everyone loves a story. No one likes never-ending stories. We want quick and to the point stories. This is not about fiction writing, it is about writing web content that captures your readers and reels them in as fast as you can. What are the tried and true methods to write and rise above the din of everyone clamoring for you 9 seconds of attention?
Meet Jon Franklin
I met Jon Franklin is a creative nonfiction class in graduate school. We read his book, Writing for Story, I highly recommend it to any content writer. He was one of the revolutionaries who developed literary journalism. Franklin’s whose work frequently focused on the human side of science and technology. The Pulitzer Prize winner boiled down the outline for writing true stories that spit it out. He teaches a 15-word outline that will help you tell the story.
This is how Jon Franklin defines “story:”
“A story consists of a sequence of actions that occur when a sympathetic character encounters a complicating situation that he confronts and solves.”
“Faction” or the mixing fiction with the facts, according to Franklin, flows from that single sentence. We love stories. We find it deeply satisfying when a character directly confronts a complication and resolves it. This is especially true when the complication is universal, significant, and important to the character. Stories offer readers a vicarious learning experience. We learn from stories in the same way that we learn from life—through the felt experience of ongoing events, rather than lectures or theory. In stories, this learning takes place when we identify with a character and sympathize with what happens to him or her.
The 15-word Outline from his book, Writing for Story:
According to Franklin, clarity about your story starts with writing a summary of the complication your main character faces. To boil your story down to its essence, Franklin recommends that you express the complication in 3 words.
That’s right—just 3 words:
2. active verb
3. noun (direct object of the verb)
Company fires Joe.
Keep in mind that these 3 words might expand into dozens of pages in which you describe Joe, his company, his job, and the details about how he came to lose it. Even so, the essence of the complication is simply this: Company fires Joe.
Now, do the same thing with the resolution. A possible example is: Joe regains job.
For Franklin, this is the acid test of a story: the character resolves the complication. If you describe a complication that goes unresolved, then you have failed to create a story. This is true even if your prose is brilliant.
Now that you have the beginning (complication) and end (resolution) of your story, outline the middle. Franklin suggests that you list three major actions that your character takes to resolve the complication. He refers to these three statements as the development.
Again, use the same 3-word format. Franklin gives these examples:
- Depression paralyzes Joe
- Joe regains confidence
- Joe sues company
- In summary, the complete story outline is this:
- Company fires Joe
- Depression paralyzes Joe
- Joe regains confidence
- Joe sues company
- Joe regains job
Behold—this is your story. In 15 words.
You might use thousands of words to flesh out these statements in rich, vivid detail. And, that will be much easier to do when the essentials of the complication, resolution, and development are fixed firmly in your mind.
The 15-word outline does this with consummate clarity and helps our phrases to put out or deliver.
Here is what you fill your outline with – Story
That’s the structure. But what goes in it? Three word statements.
The first word is the character (or situation) who is taking the main action of the scene. The second word is an action verb. The third word is the person (or thing desired) receiving the action, the direct object.
Conflict: Joe desires money
Resolution: Joe receives money
Some ways the three words go wrong:
- Not including the main character: Depression hits the U.S.
- Not using an action verb: Joe is broke.
- Not matching up the conflict and resolution: Joe desires money/Joe gets a nice job.
Franklin says that the best outlines actually feel a bit fuzzy, because they are focused on the inner conflict.
Conflict: Joe desires respect
Complication: Boss fires Joe
Complication: Joe studies accounting
Complication: Joe attempts job
Resolution: Son respects Joe
This works because the compression of the outline statements forces the writer to focus; also, because it uses active verbs, it’s easy to translate into scenes. And finally, it builds to the climax scene where the son respects his father, even when it’s still uncertain if the job will work out.
Cultivate Words that Really Work: Cut the Words that Really Don’t
- Frank Luntz, Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What You Hear
- Janice (Ginny) Reddish, Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content
- 21 Words that Work in the 21st Century (Prezi Presentation)
- 11 Words for 2011
- Words that Don’t Work on Social Media
- The Social Media Scientist
- Aristotle was a blogger before blogging was cool. Read more
- Aristotle’s Ancient Guide to Blogging – Copyblogger
Connect Keywords to Your Niche
- Scribe SEO – We will use this tool in workshop
- How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks High in Search Engines
The Tools of the New Media Marketing
- Pinterest – 41 Ways to Use Pinterest to Market your Business
- SEO Scribe
The Techniques for Bonding, Branding & Building
- Digital Rhetoric
- SEO writing – Made Simple:
- The Text
- The Title
- The Tags
- The Targeted Links
- Landing Pages
- Makes you do something
- The Ultimate in Visual Rhetoric (Rhetoric makes you do things with words)
- Converts your browsers into your buyers
- Email Contact List is Gold
- Email has not gone away – it has gone social.
- Targeted email lists are GOLD! Start gathering emails everywhere.
- The Hub of your social media constellation.
- Too Busy to Blog?
- How to get your content out there? Maybe it is not about time but focus.
- Content is EVERYTHING
- Provide valuable and well-written content to your niche audience
- Who is your audience? What is your niche? THINK ABOUT IT. Write it down and write to them – individually.
The Touch – Connecting in an Authentic Way
- The Trust Agent
- Not a label you give yourself – Never call yourself a “trust agent” just be one.
- Be Humble. Be Helpful. Be Honest. Be Generous.
- You cannot CREATE community – you CURATE community – keep building networks – so when you need them – they will be there
- Be the one who is at the elbow of someone’s deal – the person that connects other people
- Give and give without quid pro quo – expect nothing in return – then it will return to you
- “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2
- Human Business Works for building a solid platform and brand
The Time it Takes
- To connect authentically may take years of building
- To communicate your brand will take a human touch and time.
- Do you want to invest the time? Or do you just want to check Facebook and Tweet a little?
- So, let’s start building together. Read the next blurb: